Location: Houston

Date of Visit: 12/09/08

I feel tricked. Like someone’s had a great, big, $1 billion joke at my expense, and managed to fool me with big portions, a 200 item menu, glitzy ceilings, and a long line, and I didn’t even get to have any cheesecake. I know people love this place, but I am confounded as to why. The amazing thing is, this is the first time I ever had anything I actually liked here, and I still feel this way.

My first impression of The Cheesecake Factory is that it is actually a Repeated Meal Factory. Each meal there is actually the same thing, rearranged. You have the same burger, just rearranged on different bread, with different toppings. Voila, 10 different burgers. You have the same peas, spinach, and bacon served with the pasta and chicken. Voila, 20 more meals. It’s like a college cafeteria over the course of a week, only compressed into one night. You can track the progression of the chicken as it goes from chicken legs to chicken salad to enchiladas to chicken pasta to chicken soup.

The atmosphere is also factory-like. Sure, the waiter is friendly enough. That doesn’t detract from the fact that I’ve been herded, like a cow, into a tiny corner pen among a row of tiny tables barely big enough for the massive portions. After waiting 45 minutes for a table, it’s a bit of a letdown to discover advertisements in the menu. Does a chain that makes over $1M per year per restaurant need to allow third party advertisements in its menu? This is the epitome of tackiness.

I was advised against ordering The Factory Burger as it’s served on Sourdough French – apparently most people expect it to be a “normal” burger but it’s a “long” burger and the waiter doesn’t usually get a good reaction when he serves it. I was thankful for the advice but think it speaks volumes that the waiter needs to a) give that advice and b) doesn’t get the kind of patrons to whom he can usually convince to try a non-normal burger.

My dining companion ordered the Pasta Carbonara which he had said was good before. We ended up sharing halfway through the meal, as he was eying my burger covetously. The pasta was a great big glob of goopy disgusting greasiness. The burger, was, shockingly, delicious, topped with a grilled red onion, and served with a side of tangy aioli.

We boxed half of the pasta to give to the dogs because we felt bad leaving it. Bottom line… lots of glitz, and a long wait, to feel slightly let down.

Recommended: Old Fashioned Hamburger

Price: $50 for 2 with 1 drink and tip

Rating: 1.5/5 bacon slices – if the wait were shorter I might consider it again because of the price, but I’m just confounded as to why people get so excited by this place.